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Orlande de Lassus
Recommended Recordings



A History of Baroque Music - Sacred Music
(Antonio [bass] Abete, Barbara Borden, et al; Ensemble Vocal, Concerto Vocale, et al; Philippe Herreweghe, René Jacobs, et al, conducting)


Lassus: Missa Osculetur Me
(Tallis Scholars)
Oddly, this is the only Lassus record the Tallis Scholars have ever made--"oddly" because in the 16th century Palestrina and Lassus were the twin masters of sacred music acknowledged throughout Europe. Lassus's double-choir motet Osculetur me and the Mass he based on it move more vertically (in chords) than horizontally (in melodic counterpoint); much of the musical interest comes from dialogue effects between the two choirs. This isn't the most interesting program the Tallis Scholars ever recorded, but it's as spotlessly sung as any. (review by Matthew Westphal)

Lassus: Penitential Psalms
(Henry's Eight)
In the 16th century as today, Lassus and Palestrina were considered two sides of a coin: Palestrina the consummate technician who wrote immaculate but emotionally removed counterpoint versus Lassus the passionate artist whose music was exciting but unlikely to appear in textbooks. Certainly this is an oversimplification, but it seems apt for this extraordinary release. These eight settings of Psalms for the Holy Week liturgy run from straightforward note-against-note declamation to imitative polyphony or from mellifluous chords to surprising dissonances--all according to the sense of the text. (Among other things, this music demonstrates that Gesualdo didn't come out of nowhere.) The changes are sometimes quite sudden, yet the music never seems disjointed. Henry's Eight bring the music thrillingly to life--most notably, they're not afraid to leaven their smooth, sweet sound when the text and music depict agonized contrition. This record is especially recommended for anyone inclined to dismiss Renaissance sacred music as dull. (review by Matthew Westphal)

Orlando di Lasso: Chansons & Madrigals
(Toronto Consort)
For more than 25 years, the Toronto Consort has been researching and presenting innovative performances of early music. The seven-member ensemble specializes in music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and often combines with other musicians, dancers, and occasionally actors to bring centuries-old music to life for modern audiences. This wonderful collection of pieces by the great Franco-Flemish master Orlando di Lasso primarily features solo and ensemble vocal works, all of them secular songs and madrigals whose sole subject is love. While most have a certain refinement in both music and text, the disc's final selection depicts a wild, somewhat bawdy street scene "complete with squawking roosters and quarreling lovers." One of the disc's highlights is a gorgeous duet with recorder and organ. (review by David Vernier)

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